Maplewood Welcomes a New Mayor — Nancy Adams


“I promise to serve with integrity, diligence and honesty,” said Adams.

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Now entering her ninth year on the Maplewood Township Committee, Nancy Adams is now also serving in a new role — as Maplewood Mayor.

Adams is the first woman to lead the township since Ellen Davenport was mayor 27 years ago. Adams is just the second woman to serve as mayor. Adams was officially elected to the position by her peers on the Maplewood Township Committee at the January 1, 2024 Township Reorganization meeting, although the TC made its intentions known at a caucus in November. After the vote, Adams took to the podium to make her first remarks as mayor and to deliver the annual State of the Township address. Read Adams’ remarks below.

Watch here:

Happy New Year!
I’m honored to serve this year as your mayor, and I thank my colleagues for choosing me to serve as mayor of the first women-majority Township Committee! As chair of the Township Committee, I look forward to working together as a true committee and will chair the committee accordingly. I want to thank Mayor Ellen Davenport for her years of service as the first woman mayor of Maplewood and, until today, the ONLY woman mayor of Maplewood. I’m happy to break that rather sad trend by becoming the 2nd woman mayor of this wonderful town. I hope I’m just the beginning of more women coming forward to serve as mayor.

Thank you to Mr. Dafis for your hard work as our chair and mayor the last two years and thank you for your help already in the transition and for your leadership.

Thanks to my family including my siblings who reminded me how proud our parents would be of me, to my kids Maggie, Thomas, Michael, Kristin and Oscar; I hope I’m modeling community service and leadership for you and that you also can be proud of. Thanks to my very good friends who are here today and are great sounding boards who provide fun times to balance the life of this public servant. Thanks to all of you who are here today in support and a special shout out to my sister from another mister, Amy Simon, and to my co-conspirator and partner in crime about 30 years ago who flew back to Maplewood yesterday from St. Louis to be here for my swearing in, Deb Cochran (formerly Trumper for those who knew us back then when we were picking up garbage on Springfield Ave and attending the Economic Development Commission meetings every month here at Town Hall bringing up Springfield Ave, marching on Washington holding “Thelma & Louise Were Right” signs and leading the League of Women Voters of Maplewood and South Orange while founding College Hill Neighborhood Association. We were busy!) Thank you for coming all this way, it means so much.

Thank you to my husband, Sal, for your continued support of me and my work on the governing body including all the evenings you have to wait for me to come home to watch the Villanova game on delay! I love you.

A special thanks to the Maplewood Democratic Committee for all your hard work as District Leaders and to Chair Ian Grodman and Vice Chair and now Assemblywoman Elect Garnet Hall for all your support and counsel.

To the Maplewood community! It is truly an honor and a privilege to stand before you today as your mayor. I want to assure each and every one of you that I am committed to working tirelessly for the betterment of Maplewood. I promise to serve with integrity, diligence, and honesty. This community means a great deal to me, and I am personally invested in seeing it thrive and prosper.

Maplewood Mayor Nancy Adams

And with that, I’ll move on to the State of the Township address.

The State of the Township is excellent.

In 2023, we gained some stability that we struggled with for a couple of years by hiring Maplewood resident, Patrick Wherry, as our Township Administrator and recently welcomed our new Assistant Administrator Shebra Jones. We welcome them both and know that we are in good, stable hands now! Mr. Wherry hit the ground running when he began last Spring getting a lot done in a short time. During his brief tenure here, Patrick was able to help us save money by transitioning out of the state health benefits plan, where rates have been rising dramatically, and entering us into a municipal joint insurance program that will result in savings to both township employees and taxpayers.

This year, we undertook a salary study of non-union employees that Patrick oversaw to ensure equity and competitiveness in our hirings. And in the last few months of 2023, the administration hired a new Superintendent at Public Works, a new Construction Code Official, and we just recently hired a new Township Attorney to take the place of the irreplaceable etiring Roger Desiderio. Roger will be greatly missed and we look forward to working with Jennifer Cardidio as our new municipal attorney.

Our new library is under construction and despite delays dealing with some asbestos and a huge oil tank, we are on track for opening the new library in September! I took a tour recently and am so excited about the design and the amenities that will be included in our new state-of-the-art library. The library will embrace our beautiful Memorial Park and allow people inside the building to see it while the view from the park will not be a big brick wall, but rather a lot of glass that will reflect the beautiful trees. The thoughtful design is coming to life and we are all looking forward to the ribbon cutting and opening in just 8 or 9 short months.

As an environmentalist, I’m especially appreciative of the LEED Gold certification the library design has. Qualities that enhance a building leading to LEED certification include, water efficiency, green energy, indoor environmental quality, innovation in design and more. Our new library will be entirely electric with full solar energy, the only fossil fuels will be a backup generator. The Library Foundation also ran a capital campaign to support the library including a Brick Campaign and Solar grant for $100,000.

Our library staff lead by Director Sarah Lester is second to none as is shown by their personal and professional accomplishments and community engagement. I thank this dedicated staff for all their work in keeping services running while working out of various spaces in town while the main branch is under construction. It’s a lot of work and the community is so lucky to have you to continue library services with all these challenges. A special thank you to the Maplewood Library Board and the Foundation for getting this fabulous project so far and a special thanks to Committeeman Vic De Luca for his unparalleled work and leadership on this project.

In public safety, I’m pleased to report that overall crime is down in Maplewood! Robberies have decreased by half from 2022 to 2023, theft is down 15%, auto theft down 42%! These decreases are largely due to police patrol initiatives and extra officers in certain areas of town. Chief Sally has a monthly meeting with police supervisors to discuss areas of public concern and crime statistics to determine where to place the officers. Also, the Maplewood Detective Bureau made several arrests through their investigations of these crimes. While this is very good news, aggravated assaults increased from 8 to 14 in 2023 over 2022 and burglary increased slightly from 26 to 29 this last year. Almost all aggravated assault cases were domestic violence incidents that resulted in arrests. The Maplewood Community Engagement Unit has put out public safety announcements on how to secure homes, vehicles and other crime prevention tips. Thanks to Chief Al Sally and Deputy Chief Niheema Malloy and the entire department for their hard work and initiatives to keep our community safe.

After a dozen years of studies, discussions and negotiations, we fully merged the Maplewood and South Orange Fire Departments into the South Essex Fire Department. With 71 uniformed personnel, three firehouses and five fire trucks, the SEFD is able to respond to fires and other emergencies with more firefighters, more quickly. In 2023, the SEFD answered nearly 5,000 calls, the majority being emergency medical services in Maplewood; the department also responded to 63 building fires. Chief Alvarez reports that the combined department is working well as everyone gets used to the new system.

Our Health Department under the leadership of Candice Davenport was the recipient of the Gold Star in Health from Sustainable Jersey! Maplewood was the only town in the state to get this recognition in 2023 and only the 3rd town in the state to get it at all!! It’s an example of how our Health Department strives to add health to all policies that our town is taking with progressive, innovative and holistic approaches to public health and the environment. In addition to our department’s service to our town, we also provided essential and consistent public health services to South Orange with our shared service agreement. We secured an agreement with Bloomfield for animal control which was so important when we abruptly lost our previous services in 2022.

We also expanded the Crisis Intervention Social Worker Program with a new part time social worker, both of our social workers are Maplewood residents too as is our Director Ms. Davenport.

Under the direction of Paul Kittner, our Engineering Department has worked on many projects this year including paving 4.4 miles of town roads and, bonus, thanks to Paul & his staff closely monitoring their work we got another 2 1/2 miles paved by PSEG from their gas line upgrades work. All year round, we work on traffic calming and pedestrian safety projects that include traffic data collection, analysis, discussion, sometimes public hearings, and implementation of various forms of traffic calming. We also make sure to phase in any traffic calming elements (like striping, speed humps, stop signs, etc) so we’re not doing more than needed to effect calming and not spend taxpayer money on unnecessary elements. It has been effective. Some key areas where traffic calming was introduced included the intersection at Tuscan, Burnett, and Springfield Ave, Summit Ave at Midland Blvd, and the decades long problem intersection at Jefferson and Maplewood Ave where we added four-way stops and at the uphill intersection before it at Walton Rd. Engineering coordinated installation of 5 new public EV charging stations throughout the township and worked on maintaining our Township buildings, most of which are over 100 years old, including our beautiful historic Town Hall, the Woodland, the Civic House, the Burgdorff, the police building and the Hilton Library.

The Department of Public Works is always busy maintaining parks and properties throughout the township, along with all municipal vehicles, tree planting and removals, road repairs, stormwater and sewer repairs including this year jetting miles of sewer lines to ensure proper functioning. There was a concerted effort to continue the expansion of tree planting throughout town, something I personally have been advocating for since I took office 8 years ago. We have made great strides and planted 300 trees in 2023, 2/3 of those were in parks throughout the town. The department has also revised the previous culture by emphasizing pruning over removal wherever possible for both privately and publicly owned trees. Along with the Department of Community Services, DPW maintained and cleaned the Community fridge, helping those who are in need and installed the free library there too. DPW and Engineering has been studying ways to improve conditions at DeHart field while maintaining it as a natural grass field as is the desire of the community based on two referendums voting down artificial turf installation.

Our Recycling program changed dramatically in 2023 from single stream to dual stream. This change required residents to remember to separate the cardboard and paper from the rest of the recycling and to put each out at the curb on separate weeks; it also required the township to clearly communicate the changes and the schedule, which we did by launching an SMS text messaging system for non-emergency notices to the public. This whole change took about a year and a half of meeting and working with South Orange to try to get more bids and better pricing for both towns’ recycling programs. I’m pleased to report that the new system created a cleaner stream of recycling being collected and brought to a new vendor resulting in fewer penalties for contaminated recycling and more profitable sales of the recycling materials resulting in a savings of over $100,000 for Maplewood in this first year alone. We hope the savings will be even more next year.

This year marked the first year that gas-powered leaf blowers were prohibited all year, Maplewood being the first town in the state to ban the dirty fossil fuel burning engines year-round; this was followed this year by Montclair and likely more will do the same. There are also 2 bills drafted at the state level to eventually ban gas leaf blowers state-wide because of the emissions they emit and the damage to the environment and to the health of NJ residents they cause. We are noticing this year a difference in the amount of leaves being collected, we don’t have those numbers yet, but anecdotally we are seeing a change and hopefully that’s because more residents or their landscapers are mulching more of the leaves into the ground resulting in fewer leaves being brought to the curb for pickup; this will ultimately save us money in the seasonal leaf pickup work done by our DPW. Once again this shows that environmentally progressive practices not only help the environment but can save us money.

And speaking of the environment, Maplewood was awarded the Sustainable Jersey Silver Certification with 555 points this year. That’s more than 200 points higher than the 350 needed for silver certification. The Sustainable Jersey Certification avails us to training and tools for green initiatives for our town and also to grants that we would otherwise not be able to apply for. Most importantly, the initiatives we undertake for points, including creating a community energy plan like we did this year, make us more environmentally aware and sustainable.

Our Department of Community Services under the leadership of Melissa Mancuso along with her hard-working staff, continues to offer our community a plethora of varied recreational and cultural activities. They have continued offering and enhancing softball, basketball, tennis, ultimate frisbee to children, adults and seniors in our community along with goat yoga, skating, arts and craft classes and so much more. This department also manages the pool offering new classes and swim lessons along with the day-to-day operation of the pool which included a huge capital improvement project this year that will keep the pool facility fit for use for decades into the future. In 2024, we are working on lowering membership fees for the pool to enable more residents to join.

The Arts & Culture division in the Dept of Community Services did a complete redesign of their website and launched new social media accounts to improve communication to the public. They hosted 7 successful exhibitions at 1978 Arts Center including raising $7500 for the ACLU Drag Defense Fund. Along with cooperation on events with local theater groups, and putting on concerts at the Gazebo, the department launched the first ever MAPSO Follies in November, which was a huge success drawing over 400 people to watch their friends and neighbors perform at the Woodland, what a fun night! Other events in 2023 were the Lunar Fest, West African Beats Night, Django a Go Go, Studio Burgdorff, and Broadway in the Park to name a few! The Department also helps coordinate Black History, Women’s History and Pride Month activities helping us recognize and celebrate these groups.

The Township Clerk’s Office is always busy in the important work of keeping resident and Township records. In 2023, the office along with Administration successfully created a way to use our current technology so the Township Committee could have hybrid meetings. This was a heavy lift and took a lot of coordinated work, and I thank Dean Dafis, Amari Allah and Patrick Wherry for their hard work on this successful effort. The clerk’s office also transitioned processes so that online payments can now be done by residents, lessening the need for paper! The office appointed a new in-house registrar to allow for those services during normal business hours again and began a massive scanning process of past ordinances and resolutions. Our fabulous clerk Liz Fritzen leads her team including Deputy Clerk Amari Allah and Ed Starzynski. And, of course, there are the annual celebrations Liz coordinates from the Employee Appreciation Afternoon at the pool, Veterans Day Program, and Volunteer Appreciation Dinner, to name a few.

The Department of Community Development works year-round on construction permitting, code enforcement, and all things planning and approvals. In construction, almost 2,000 permits at just under $1 million in fees were processed in 2023 with almost 5,000 inspections for construction code compliance. In property maintenance, about 1,800 notices of violation and 300 summonses were issued; our code enforcement team made almost 3,300 inspections. The Department of Community Development under the leadership of Annette DePalma, applied for and received close to $1 million in grants for roadwork and beautification on Springfield Avenue, for a preservation plan for the Woodland (thanks to Daniel Wright, chair of our Historic Preservation Commission for his work on this), and a huge grant for a Senior ADA compliant electric bus! I’d like to recognize the HPC on their work in general, but this year their achievement of getting our Maplewood Village designated on the state and national register of historic places and for achieving the award of a grant to do the preservation study of the Woodland.

Associated with the department of Community Development, our Zoning and Planning Boards are administered by Adele Lewis, Land Use Administrator; Adele serves as secretary to both Boards. Both were busy but in August, the Planning Board adopted a new Master Plan for the Township. A subcommittee of the planning board under Chair Karen Pisciotta and led by Board member Liz Ward held many community meetings with the planning firm and got a lot of community input that led to a comprehensive Master Plan that reflects what our community wants Maplewood to be. It was a huge lift and we ended up with an excellent end product as a result of the hard work of so many volunteers and staff. The township has also continued to include affordable housing units in all new housing developments, ensuring equity in housing so that more people can have the pleasure of living in our great town.

So as you can tell, the state of the township is not only excellent, it’s very, very busy! You are blessed to have a township staff that is dedicated and hard working, they have to be because you also have a governing body that is also dedicated and hard working, in fact, maybe more than the staff would like!! Seriously, though, it’s a pleasure to serve this community, I think my colleagues would agree, and it’s an honor to serve you this year also as your mayor. Happy New Year!

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